Telecommuting Tips

With all the collaboration technology available for offices today, there's no reason telecommuters can't be as productive and as connected as other team members.

I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, known for high-tech companies, horrible traffic and high cost of living. When it came time for me to buy a house, I chose an area that left me with a 90–120-minute commute, depending on traffic and the time of day, so through the years, I've negotiated work-from-home days and have experience with telecommuting at companies of various sizes with different proportions of remote workers. Telecommuting is not only more convenient for many employees, it also can get the best work out of people, because it can grant better opportunities to focus and lets employees get right to work instead of spending hours getting to and from work. Unfortunately, many places inadvertently sabotage their telecommuters with bad practices, so here are a few tips to help make telecommuting successful.

Invest in Good Teleconference Hardware

I've attended many video conferences where the audio was so horrible, I might as well have not joined. Or worse, there was a time when one speaker was loud and clear, but when the conversation went to the other side of the table, it was inaudible. Although it's nice to have quality cameras, having quality microphones is critical. Make sure each of your meeting rooms has quality microphones that can pick up sounds all around the meeting table, and make sure attendees speak up. Relying on the microphone on someone's laptop just doesn't cut it for meetings involving more than two people. Although it's considered good meeting etiquette to have only one person speak at a time, this protocol is extra important if you have anyone calling in, as cross-talk makes it all but impossible to hear either conversation even over a good microphone.

Add Video Conference Links to Every Meeting

Make it a habit to add a link to your video conference room for each meeting you create, even if all of the attendees are expected to be in the office. This habit ensures that when you realize you forgot to invite a remote workers, you aren't scrambling to figure out how to set up the video conference, plus sometimes even team members in the office need to work from home at the last minute. If your scheduling software can do this automatically, even better (some do this by having each meeting room in a contact list and inviting the relevant meeting room to the meeting). Also make sure you set this up for all-hands company-wide meetings.